I remember what it was like watching my first supreme champion selection at World Dairy Expo. Arriving close to the start time, the ability to find a good seat in the coliseum proved to be a difficult task as many WDE attendees gathered to watch the final event of the show. As my friends and I sat down in one of the top rows, the lights lowered and the spotlights came on. I didn't realize the grandeur of the event. I could feel the excitement and the emotion gathering in the circular venue as people excitedly waited for the next honored cow.
Each cow and leadsperson took their turn, slowly making their way around the outside of the ring as the spotlight made the pair the sole focus of the event. Music played - in this particular instance, the soundtrack from Forrest Gump - while the announcer shared highlights about the cow and a short history behind the breeder and farm. I could see the pride in each leadsperson as he or she soaked in the moment of having a grand champion cow at World Dairy Expo.
As I listened about each cow's achievements while the music played, I couldn't help but get a bit teary eyed. The breeders and farmers who owned those cows had all worked so hard to get to that moment. It spanned more than just getting a cow ready for a show. It goes back to the farm - breeding that animal, raising her and giving her the best quality care in order to help her thrive into a show cow that could parade around the ring at one of the biggest shows in North America.
"It would be cool if that could be one of our cows someday," I thought to myself. I didn't think too much more about the idea since these cows are primed for showing and Sheeknoll Farms rarely made an appearance on the colored shavings at World Dairy Expo.
My family also had the same thought. And over the past few years, we have occasionally exhibited an animal when she has done well at local and regional shows. This year, our 6-year-old Holstein, Sheeknoll Durham Arrow also known as Thomas, was having a great summer show season. My family decided to see how she would do at Expo.
While the rest of family took care of the cows back home, my brother, Andrew, and mom, Jeannette, took turns caring for Thomas in Madison. Although we like to show during the season, we don't have a big set up like many other strings. And our crew is made up friends and young dairy enthusiasts.
When show day arrived, Mom took the halter and proudly lead Thomas past the judge as well as she could. Thomas didn't want to cooperate in class that day. She was being stubborn and wouldn't move well. Regardless of how she lead, the judge saw her potential and pointed her to the top of the aged cow class. The crowd erupted in cheers, and Dad and I each jumped out of our seats cheering and clapping. We couldn't believe our farm had just won a class at World Dairy Expo. Our goal was to simply claim a medal by getting into the top 10.
With the excitement of winning the class, it didn't even dawn on us that we had potential to win the whole show. But when the moment came for grand champion selection, the judge made a big circle around the lineup of beautiful bovines and walked right up to Thomas and Mom to give her a high five, and name our cow as Holstein grand champion at World Dairy Expo.
What a thrill.
We were shocked, excited and so happy. Could this really be happening to us? I think the moment is perfectly captured in a picture of Mom. The judge is giving her a high five while her eyes are closed tight with a huge smile on a face. It was a look of both joy and disbelief.
Following the Holstein show, Mom had the honor of leading Thomas in the supreme champion selection. Just like the first time I watched it, the lights turned down and the spotlights came out. The emcee shared the story of Thomas and our family while the duo elegantly walked atop the colored shaving. Thomas must have known this was a big deal. She didn't act up like in the Aged Cow class. Although she stopped once or twice, Thomas lead perfectly, showing off the attributes that earned her grand champion of the Holstein show.
I got a little teary eyed. Although I still like to claim to be a part of Sheeknoll Farms, I can't take credit for any of the work. It made me so proud of my family to watch my mom and Thomas. It was one way to recognize all the hours, dedication and challenges they overcame while dairy farming.
During the ceremony, Thomas was named reserve supreme champion of World Dairy Expo - the cherry on top of an already spectacular day.
My family has always been an inspiration to me, but this year's World Dairy Expo makes them even more so. It makes me want to push myself further in projects I work on. It is possible to achieve dreams. My family showed me that during their grand day at World Dairy Expo.